The NFL is such a ridiculous phenomenon. No other professional sport has one game a week, to allow fans, media and critics bash or praise each team based on one game. Literally, week to week, if you were an outsider with no clue on how the NFL works, you would think people were completely 100% bipolar. How else can you explain it? The Bills leading up to week 1, were predicted to lose by 10-50 points to the Pats. After week 1, some said what an effort, others destroyed McKelvin's property. After week 2, some said look at what this offense can be, others said "eh it was the Bucs." After week 3, we are back to how most felt after the pre-season, thinking Trent-ative is back, T.O. is about to go Chuck Norris on Edwards, and Dick Jauron has no clue on game-day management (see 4th and 1 in the 4th quarter).
I'm here to tell you that perspective is a tool all people need to use. Great leaders in business or sports know how to first identify the problem, find the best possible way to correct the errors, and if that doesn't work, have the BALLS or courage to CHANGE and try something else. The best leaders call it knowing when to admit that your way is not the best way, and having the courage to change for the betterment of the T-E-A-M. Dick Jauron has shown that. He fired Turk Schonert, he cut Langston Walker, he traded Jason Peters, signed T.O., drafted Shawn Nelson, and most notably went to a complete no-huddle offense. These are drastic changes that were made after 3 years of winning just .438% of there games.
But now we are in full regular season mode. While game planning and X's and O's are undoubtedly crucial to success, more so than anything is what you have don ein minicamps, OTA's, training camp and practice leading up to this point. Week to week game plans change, but the fundamentals of football do not change.
I go to one Bills game every year. This was my 4th straight trip. I have never once met a casual friend or stranger that understands why I depart my hometown of Minneapolis every Fall to travel to Buffalo to see a Bills game. I tell them it's because I love my team, I love the NFL, I love the city, and I feel a commonality with Bills fans that I can only get by attending the Ralph. However, I have yet to see a Bills victory in my travels. Not that I am here for sympathy, but my last two trips, (last year vs the NYJ, and this year vs NO) have been very troubling. Both games Dick Jauron's teams have looked flat, prone to mental errors especially on offense, and have lacked discipline in the kicking game, and in their offensive assignments. Trent Edwards looked miserable on Sunday, but the real question is WHY? The kid prepares like no other, has an unreal work ethic, wants to be the best, and does not get rattled. But why then, can he not step up and play more consistently?
This team reflects its leader, Dick Jauron. Players work hard, don't throw teammates under the bus in the media, are classy and full of character, and treat each other with respect. That all stems from the HC. Mike Lombardi said about the Bills the following: they are hard to play but not hard to beat. What does that mean? Different interpretations can be made but I think it means their effort is always 100%, they don't beat themselves on defense, and they always come to play on gameday. However, they don't challenge good opponents into the 4th quarter. They don't put the pressure on the opposition. Yesterday, the defense played with heart, and Chris Kelsay, IMO, had one of his best games as a Bill. He was great in dissecting plays, read and reacting and making tackles when the opportunity presented itself (I had to throw that in there for K).
If the Bills want to go from a 5-7 Win team (which they looked like on Sunday) to a 8-11 Win team (which Jauron needs to keep his job) they have to go from preparing to play, to preparing to Win. I felt going into this season that Jauron was ready to make change because "it was necessary." His job is on the line, he is desperate to win, to keep it, and to accomplish something no coach in Buffalo has done in 10 years....make the playoffs. He did that in off-season personnel changes, and now he needs to do it in the way his teams play on Sundays. The OL looked like a bunch of rookies on Sunday. Trent Edwards looked like the check-down QB afraid to make a mistake, we saw last year in Cleveland. Why does this persist? Why is Captain Checkdown one of Trent's bipolar characters? Maybe it's his genetic disposition. Like when golfers are under pressure, they often have a swing that "comes out and rears its head." It's the golfers who can go to a "get me over swing" in those situations or can thrive in those situations that separate Tiger from say your run of the mill tour pro.
To sum up, we can argue why Trent goes to his conservative ways, or why the Bills struggled vs NO and may continue to struggle vs above-average teams this season. But the bottom line is the proof is in the pudding so to speak. Coach Jauron always prepares his team to play, but does he prepare them to win? Mental mistakes, penalties (most penalized team in the league), lack of effort, are results of inconsistent mental performance. This is troubling, yet also breeds optimism knowing these are correctable errors. Perhaps the offense (AVP, Trent, EVERYONE) got complacent after beating Tampa Bay. Perhaps they thought they were on the right track after success in NE and vs TB. The weapons are available, and it's the job of Edwards to get them the ball. From the stands it was clearly evident to see T.O. "doggin it" on plays where he felt he wasn't going to get the football. You can see how this adversely affects Edwards. Then when he needs a big play from T.O. should Trent have confidence in T.O. to be there, to run his route 100% when he has seen his body language go to sour grapes as the game wore on? Frustration yields inconsistency in play and performance. I saw it first hand on Sunday.
Here's the Bills offensive possession results from Sunday:
1 - Punt
2- FG - Fake results in TD
3 - Punt
4 - Punt
5 - Punt
6 - Punt
7 - INT on throw to T.O.
8 - Punt
9 - Punt
10 - Punt on 4th and 1 from own 28 with 7:30 left
11 - TO on downs
12 - Punt on 4th and 10 form own 20
Not exactly lighting up the scoreboard. The Bills owned the ball for 26:26, were 2-14 on 3rd down, had 13 first downs, and completed just 20/35 passes (not including Moorman's) for an avg of 4.4 yds per attempt. One stat Lombardi loves is passes completed plus rushing attempts. NO was (16 completed + 38 rushing attempts = 54). The Bills were (17 completed + 21 attempts for 38). That is a huge disparity and tells the story.
I could go on and on, and this has turned into a mind dump here, but the bottom line is you expect to see progress with this offense, unfotunately on Sunday we saw regression. Edwards and AVP never figured out how to beat the NO defense. With a poor rushing attack, the Bills struggled, and it can be argued they didn't run it enough. If this offense could somehow, eliminate mental errors, and build some confidence, I believe the potential is there. With 5 games before the bye week of (@ MIA, vs CLE, @ NYJ, @ CAR, vs HOU) the Bills can pretty much determine if they will contend the 2nd half or be a non-factor. You have to think a record of 4-4 at the Bye week is an absolute minimum to have any shot at the playoffs, and with a much tougher second half of the schedule, I don't see how they can be worst than 5-3 and have any shot. It's often said that games in September are tough to decipher as teams build their foundations and get a feel for other teams schemes and effectiveness. Well, September is over, the Bills went 1-2. It's now time to shut up or put up. It starts this Sunday in MIA, and if ever there was a time to Dick Jauron to summon that desperation to keep his job, to get his team to play with such conviction and emotion as they did in week 1 @ NE, that time is now. Now is the time. This is the week. Let's see how it. "When it's too tough for them it's just right for us" As Marv Levy used to say, well that couldn't be more true than this week against MIAMI. I